The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later


The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later
The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later  
Author(s) Alexandre Dumas
Original title Le Vicomte de Bragelonne ou Dix ans plus tard
Country France
Language Translated from French
Genre(s) Historical, Romantic
Publication date French, Serialized 1847-1850

The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later (French: Le Vicomte de Bragelonne ou Dix ans plus tard) is a novel by Alexandre Dumas. It is the third and last of the d'Artagnan Romances, following The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After. It appeared first in serial form between 1847 and 1850. In the English translations the 268 chapters of this large volume are usually subdivided into three, but sometimes four or even five individual books. In three-volume English editions, the three volumes are titled "The Vicomte de Bragelonne", "Louise de la Vallière", and "The Man in the Iron Mask." Each of these volumes is roughly the length of the original The Three Musketeers. In four-volume editions, the names of the volumes are kept, except that "Louise de la Vallière" and "The Man in the Iron Mask" are pushed down from second and third to third and fourth, with "Ten Years Later" becoming the second volume. There are usually no volume-specific names in five-volume editions. French academic Jean-Yves Tadié has argued that the beginning of King Louis XIV's personal rule is the novel's real subject.[1]

Contents

Plot

Though there are many digressions, the heroes of the novel remain d'Artagnan and the rest of the original musketeers who find adventure, perform fantastic feats, and grow older. Due to the novel's length it is frequently broken into several parts. The action takes place between 1660 and 1667 and has as its thematic background the transformation of Louis XIV from a weak boy king dominated by his ministers and mother to the Sun King in absolute control of the French state.

Part One: The Vicomte of Bragelonne (Chapters 1-93)

After 35 years of loyal service, d'Artagnan resigns in disgust after seeing how Cardinal Mazarin remains the true power behind the monarchy, even after Louis supposedly reached his majority. He is particularly disgusted at how the king allowed himself to be persuaded by Mazarin not to send aid to Charles II in his efforts to retake the throne of England, so d'Artagnan resolves to aid the exiled king himself, unaware at first that Athos is also attempting to do the same thing. D'Artagnan hatches an audacious plan to kidnap General Monk, who is perceived as the biggest obstacle to Charles regaining the throne, and Athos attempts to recover a substantial treasure that Charles I made known to him just prior to his execution, that was to be used to aid his son in recovering the throne. Athos manages to recover the treasure, which is within territory controlled by General Monk, and shortly after, d'Artagnan succeeds in kidnapping the General, bringing him before Charles II, who disdains to keep him captive and orders d'Artagnan to return him to his army. It turns out that General Monk secretly has Royalist sympathies, and was looking to assess Charles' worthiness to be restored, and the king's decision to let him go removed all doubts in his mind. With the General's support and the funds which Athos recovered, King Charles II was restored to the throne. Unlike in previous episodes where d'Artagnan and his friends had aided monarchs, Charles II rewarded d'Artagnan richly for his efforts. Athos, in an attempt to further strengthen the ties between England and France, uses his newly-earned favor with Charles to negotiate the marriage of the king's sister Henrietta Anne Stuart to the brother of Louis XIV, Monsieur Philippe.

Just as d'Artagnan and Athos return to France, Cardinal Mazarin has finally died, leaving Louis to assume power, entreating him never to take another Prime Minister, but leaving him Jean-Baptiste Colbert as his adviser. Colbert has an intense hatred for the king's Superintendent of Finances, Nicolas Fouquet, and tries to bring about his fall. He manages to have two of Fouquet's loyal friends executed (with d'Artagnan and Raoul de Bragelonne unwittingly foiling a plot to rescue them), and brings to the king's attention that Fouquet is fortifying his castle at Belle-Isle, and might be using it as a base for a military operation against the king. Louis, concerned by these developments, persuades d'Artagnan to reenter his service, and gives him the mission of investigating Belle-Isle, promising him a substantial salary and promotion to Captain of the King's Musketeers on his return. He is told to request a quarter of his promised salary from Fouquet, to cover his expenses for the mission, with the expectation that Fouquet would refuse, however much to d'Artagnan's surprise he receives the entire promised amount, not just the quarter that was ordered. D'Artagnan is clever enough to recognize that in so doing Fouquet is quite openly bribing him, but he contrives to keep the money and even present a receipt for it so it represents legitimate pay that the treasury owes him anyway, refusing to return the remainder as Colbert insists that he must. He becomes suspicious of both Fouquet, portrayed as likeable but corrupt, and Colbert, whom he sees as an envious, unscrupulous social climber despite his honesty.

At Belle-Isle, d'Artagnan finds out that it is indeed being fortified, and finds that the engineer in charge of the fortifications is none other than Porthos, and the blueprints show the mark of Aramis' handwriting, whom d'Artagnan later finds out has become the Bishop of Vannes, a diocese near Belle-Isle within the domains of Fouquet. Despite the involvement of his friends, d'Artagnan keeps to his mission, and attempts to hide the true reason for his presence. Aramis, however, is not deceived, and realizes that d'Artagnan is on a mission from the king to investigate their doings, and sends Porthos back to Paris with all speed to warn Fouquet, entreating him to cede Belle-Isle to the king as a gift (an empty gift, he thinks, as the fortress will still be manned by Fouquet's men), while tricking d'Artagnan into searching for Porthos around Vannes. Porthos manages to warn Fouquet in time, and he cedes Belle-Isle to the king, allaying all suspicions and humiliating Colbert, just minutes before d'Artagnan arrives with the news that the island is indeed being fortified. Although d'Artagnan's mission has apparently been preempted, Louis XIV keeps his promises and finally makes him Captain of the King's Musketeers.

Meanwhile, the Princess Henrietta has arrived in France for her wedding with Monsieur Philippe, and the young and beautiful princess has thrown the French Court into discord. She arrives escorted by the second Duke of Buckingham (son of the first Duke of Buckingham) who is madly in love with the princess. They are met by an embassy consisting of Raoul de Bragelonne, Guiche de Gramont, and the Comte de Wardes (son of the Comte de Wardes who was a dangerous enemy of d'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers). Violence nearly erupts in the streets of Le Havre due to the Duke's jealousy, prevented only by Raoul's timely and tactful intervention. After the marriage, Monsieur Philippe becomes horribly jealous of Buckingham, and has him exiled.

Part Two: Louise de la Vallière (Chapters 94-180)

The second part of the novel, Louise de la Vallière, is devoted in large part to romantic events at the court of Louis XIV. After the wedding of the Princess and Monsieur, Raoul de Bragelonne finds out that his childhood sweetheart, Louise de la Vallière, has been given an appointment as a maid of honor to the Princess, and in fear that her reputation and virtue might be tarnished by affairs at court, seeks to marry her immediately. His father, Athos, the Comte de la Fère, initially disapproves of the match, but reluctantly agrees, out of love for his son, to seek the king's permission. The king, however, refuses to sanction the marriage, saying that Louise is not sufficiently wealthy or beautiful to be worthy of a noble of de Bragelonne's stature, desiring them to wait until Louise has earned her fortune and Raoul grows in prestige.

Meanwhile, the struggle for power continues between Fouquet and Colbert. Louis, at Colbert's urging, attempts to impoverish Fouquet by asking him for a large sum of money to pay for a grand fête at Fontainbleau. Without his two friends to raise it for him, he becomes sorely pressed, and his position becomes so bad that his new mistress is obliged to sell all her jewels to raise the money. Meanwhile, Aramis has made the acquaintance of the governor of the Bastille M. de Baisemeaux, and learns from him the location of a mysterious prisoner, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Louis XIV. Aramis uses this secret to persuade the dying general of the Jesuits (disguised as a Franciscan monk), to name him the new general of the Society.

After Buckingham finally leaves France (brought back to England seriously wounded in a duel with de Wardes), the next to succumb to Henrietta's charms is Raoul's friend the Comte de Guiche, and Monsieur obtains his exile as well, although he later manages to effect a reconciliation. However, the King's eye is next to fall on on Madame Henrietta, and this time Monsieur's jealousy has no recourse. Anne of Austria intervenes, and suggests that the king and his sister-in-law choose a young lady of the court to act as a smokescreen for their flirtation. Unfortunately, for this they select Louise de la Vallière. During the fête at Fontainbleau, the king unwittingly overhears Louise confess her love for him while chatting with her friends at the royal oak, and promptly forgets his affection for Henrietta. That same night at the same royal oak, Henrietta hears de Guiche, recently returned from his exile, confess his love for her to Raoul. The two pursue their own love affair. Aware of Louise's attachment, the king sends Raoul as a diplomatic envoy to England where he is to remain indefinitely. The love affair between Louis and Louise begins to grow, and soon becomes occasion for scandal, but before it becomes widely known Aramis perceives it, and he advises Fouquet to make advances to the young lady so as to have some influence over her, sending her a letter. This however, backfires as the servant whom Fouquet commands to send the letter happens to be an agent of Colbert, and the letter never reaches its intended destination.

The rumors about Louise and the king put Raoul's friends in a difficult position, and soon de Guiche finds himself obliged to defend Raoul's honor in a duel after malicious insinuations made by de Wardes. De Wardes manages to prevail in spite of not yet having completely recovered from injuries received in his previous duel with Buckingham, and de Guiche is seriously wounded. This incident is the last straw for Madame Henrietta, and further inflamed by jealousy against Louise for having surpassed her in the affections of the king, resolves to dismiss the young maid of honor from her service. The king manages to talk Madame out of this course of action, but she nevertheless resolves to prevent the king from seeing Louise as much as she can. Nonetheless, the king still manages to outwit her, and frustrated in her attempts, as a final stroke she writes to her brother King Charles II, asking him to send Raoul back to France. Raoul, on his return, catches Louise in the arms of the king, and is devastated and heartbroken.

Athos falls out with Louis over his clandestine affair with Louise - though Louise does not truly love Raoul - and resigns from his service and public life. Louis petulantly orders Athos's imprisonment, but is talked out of it by D'Artagnan, and Athos is freed before spending a single night in prison.

Part Three: The Man in the Iron Mask (Chapters 181-269)

The last section of the novel is famous, in part, for building its plot around Dumas' hypothesis that the Man in the Iron Mask was Philippe, a twin brother to Louis XIV. Aramis plots a coup d’état to replace Louis with Philippe, whom he would obviously have some influence over (and hoping that Philippe in turn will assist in Aramis's own ambitions, to be a Cardinal and perhaps even Pope). Aramis entangles the trusting strongman Porthos in his scheme, although Porthos knows nothing beyond that he is taking orders from Aramis. Through subterfuge, he manages to switch the release orders for an innocuous prisoner for that of Philippe, and having gotten him out of the Bastille begins training him on how to act once he has exchanged places with the king.

A few days later, Fouquet, France's Superintendent of Finance, throws a lavish party for Louis at his chateau in Vaux, Colbert becomes jealous. After showing evidence proving Fouquet had financed the extravagant estate by embezzling money from the state coffers, as well as the incriminating letter he tried to send to Mlle. de La Vallière, Colbert manages to turn the king against Fouquet for good, and he orders d'Artagnan to arrest the Superintendent that night, even though he is a guest in the Superintendent's home.

Just when all seems lost for Fouquet, Aramis places the second half of his audacious plan into action. He kidnaps Louis XIV, imprisoning him in the Bastille in Philippe's place, leaning on his authority as general of the Jesuits to convince Baisemeaux (himself associated with the Society), to obey without asking further questions, and replaces the king with Philippe. Aramis reveals to Fouquet that he has replaced the king with his twin, expecting an ally, but to his amazement, Fouquet is angered by the plot and goes to rescue Louis from the Bastille (much to the confusion of Baisemeaux). He gives Aramis and Porthos time to escape to Belle Isle, giving them sanctuary there from the king's vengeance. Louis returns, exposes Philippe, and regains the throne with d'Artagnan's help, ending Philippe's brief reign. Louis banishes Philippe, ordering that "he will cover his face with an iron visor, which the prisoner cannot raise without peril of his life." D'Artagnan is tasked with conducting Philippe to prison.

Meanwhile, Athos and Raoul meet at La Fére the fleeing Aramis and Porthos, who hint at the affair they were involved in and its disastrous end before being given horses to continue on their way to Belle Isle. They are soon followed by the Duc de Beaufort, on his way to Algiers for an expedition against the Barbary corsairs. Raoul, devastated by the king's love affair with Louise, volunteers to join the Duc in his expedition, and is named his aide-de-camp. Athos accompanies him to the port of Toulon where the Duc's expedition is to begin, and on the way they encounter the Man in the Iron Mask just as d'Artagnan is bringing him to the prison at Sainte-Marguerite, who throws to them a silver dish on which he inscribed the words: "I am the brother of the king of France—a prisoner to-day—a madman to-morrow. French gentlemen and Christians, pray to God for the soul and the reason of the son of your old rulers." Nothing comes of this however, as Raoul is off to war in Africa, and Athos is retired from politics. At Toulon, father and son are parted forever.

Despite Fouquet's rescue, Louis ultimately orders d'Artagnan to arrest Fouquet after a meeting at Nantes - from which Fouquet escapes, but d'Artagnan overtakes him and arrests him. Subsequently, Louis gives d'Artagnan the order to arrest and execute Porthos and Aramis. D'Artagnan feigns carrying out the king's orders while secretly giving his friends Aramis and Porthos every chance to escape from their hideaway on Belle Isle - despite knowing they are plainly guilty, he would rather see them flee to exile where they might live long enough to receive a pardon. However, Colbert anticipates d'Artagnan's motives and outmaneuvers him with orders circumventing his efforts. The last straw is the order that any prisoners are to be shot immediately, not taken for trial, even if they surrender: upon learning this, d'Artagnan resigns. But even his resignation (and subsequent temporary arrest) fails to throw the King's army into confusion, since a replacement leader was already appointed: the newly-fortified Belle-Isle has not enough defenders, and must fall, without more than cursory resistance as even Aramis advises the populace that resistance is futile.

Trying to escape from Belle Isle, Porthos becomes the first of the four musketeers to die, when he is crushed by boulders as a sudden loss of strength in his legs prevents his escape. Porthos' father and grandfather died as a result of a similar loss of strength. As a result of Porthos's efforts, though, Aramis and a few friends slaughter over a hundred of their pursuers and are able to escape to sea. Even then they are nearly captured, but once again Aramis's Jesuit connections allow him to make an escape, when the captain of the ship that captures Aramis also turns out to be a Jesuit: and the ship is last seen heading for Spain.

In the meantime, Athos has returned to his estates, and sinks into a deep depression, rapidly becoming old and feeble. Just before news arrives that Raoul has been killed in a rash action at Gigelli, Athos succumbs to his grief and dies of a broken heart. Meanwhile, the arrested d'Artagnan has a long conversation with King Louis, as a result of which he is freed and reinstated, with some compromise on both sides. He learns of Porthos's death and Aramis's escape, and also learns to better understand Colbert's ambitions for France, having previously only seen him as a power-seeking social climber. Colbert has replaced Fouquet as minister of finance now: and the author, for the sake of historical accuracy perhaps, mentions in a dialogue Colbert's future achievements - building granaries, edifices, cities, and ports; creating a marine and equipping navies; constructing libraries and academies; and making France the wealthiest country of the period. All of these being things that Fouquet would not have even attempted, preferring to spend on show and splendour, and spend for many years ahead of the actual revenue. While d'Artagnan (and, one suspects, Dumas as well) found Fouquet a far more likeable character to be around, one gets the impression that in the end both were glad it was Colbert to whom the task of reorganising France's finances fell.

Aramis finds his way to Spain and turns up as the Spanish ambassador to France, working to ensure the neutrality of Spain in France's campaign against the United Provinces in 1667 (about 5 years after the deaths of Porthos and Athos). Louise de la Vallière has by this time found herself superseded in the king's affections by Madame de Montespan, and passes the remainder of her days in abject misery. In the final chapter, Louis has become a wise and powerful king, and Colbert assists him in masterminding France's return to power via the military campaign against the United Provinces, with d'Artagnan in charge of the attack. During the war, d'Artagnan, almost 60 by then, is killed moments after reading the letter declaring him Marshal of France, his lifelong ambition, uttering the final words, "Athos, Porthos, au revoir! Aramis, adieu for ever!"

See also

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External links

Notes

  1. ^ Dumas, Alexandre (1997). Jean-Yves Tadié. ed (in French). Le Vicomte de Bragelonne. I. Paris: Gallimard. ISBN 978-2070400515. 

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